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Orange Coast Winery

Douglas Wiens
November 22, 2017 | Douglas Wiens

Is it Blasphemous to Order White Wine to go with my Steak?

Pairing food with wine can’t be simplified by matching colors

Yes, people take wine seriously—which is why it’s possible to attach the word blasphemy to those who do not speak the truth about this glorious liquid. Often, though, blasphemy turns out to be only an accusation made by the uninformed. Ask Galileo, who in 1633 was accused of blasphemy and found guilty of heresy for daring to declare that our planet revolved around the sun. 

Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest for this. Don’t worry. A similar fate does not await you if you declare that only white wines go with fish or reds with meat. There are uninformed people out there who may accuse you of blasphemy. Now, you can help them see the light. 

The problem with one size fits all

There’s validity to the idea of the white/white red/red rule, but you shouldn’t apply it in all cases. Not all red meat is the same. You likely wouldn’t confuse salmon with flounder. The same is true with wine.

So, while it’s generally a wise idea to pair white wine with fish, it’s also important to look past the color. A Gewürztraminer tastes completely different than a Sauvignon Blanc—yet both are white wines. 

This takes us to the idea that wines and food have the responsibility to pay complementary respect in flavor, which sometimes has little to do with color. Your Dover sole filet would be overwhelmed by our Sangiovese. The flip-side to that would be the consequences of pairing our Pinot Grigio with a strong and oily filet of salmon.

And then there’s the consideration of how your meat or fish is prepared. Perhaps you’ll prepare calamari Fra Diavolo-style. A delicate white wine would be lost in the mouthful of spices.

Some specificity for the generality

Hard and fast doesn’t work well with the complications brought on by pairing a main ingredient—in this case, either meat or fish—with myriad cooking styles, and then applying the white/white red/red rule.

The color rule is a good place to start, but then take it to the next round of elimination by keeping these things in mind:

  • Oven-baked fish, as well as oil-rich filets like salmon, can be paired with a medium red wine. Think Pinot Noir. Careful with the stronger reds, though. Fish may taste mild when it’s unadorned—but its iodized undertones can clash with a red wine’s tannins. You’ll get a mouthful of metallic or bitter sensations.
  • Red meats—especially with marbled fat—will soften these sharp tannins. It’s why most people opt to pair wines such as our Malbec with a Porterhouse steak or a dinosaur-size Prime rib.
  • Back to considering the preparation method over the main ingredient: Pass on a red wine if your dish features a cream-based sauce. The fats and milk solids will coat your tongue, allowing only a portion of the spectrum of flavors contained in red wines to make it to your taste buds. That limited spectrum may not be to your liking. Go for something oak-aged, like a creamy Chardonnay.

Galileo was on the bad side of the Catholic Church for more than 300 years for daring to voice his opinion about our Earth and the sun. Ultimately, the church admitted that there was a preponderance of evidence to their contrary belief.

You may have some pushback when you decide to order a bottle of our Viognier to go with your steak au poivre. It’s doubtful you’ll spend the rest of our life under house arrest, though. In fact, you may actually gain standing by educating your naysayers about the limiting consequences of the white/white red/red rule.


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